It was April, 1965 and my husband, Srini, and I exited Pan Am flight 1, around the world flight, in the airfield in New Delhi. We had been traveling more than 26 hours with stops in London, Frankfort, Istanbul, Beirut, Tehran, Delhi. It had been my first International flight. As we landed just before dawn, it was dark and little could be seen from the window of the 707 we had flown in. It took some time for all the passengers to get up, gather their belongings and slowly deplane. As I climbed down the stairs of the platform, which had been rolled up to the exit, the dawn was just beginning to break. It was around 5:00AM.
I remember most vividly, as if it happened yesterday, the sights and sounds and smells of India which greeted me. I saw a vast field with light just beginning to come up over the horizon. I could make out palm trees in the distance and small tents and structures with dim shapes and forms just discernible. in front and among the trees. I saw in the distance the terminal toward which passengers with their hand bags, were walking. All the luggage from the flight was lined up in long lines beside the plane and we had to identify each of our bags before beginning the trek to the terminal.
From my decent down the stairway platform, to our inspection of bags, to the walk to the terminal all my senses were invaded by new experiences but none more than my sense of smell. Mostly I remember the scent of India. There was a breeze blowing and I inhaled smells of fuel from the plane, wood or charcoal burning from the distant campers preparing their breakfasts, and the damp pungent smell of earth. The packed earth we were walking on as we crossed the airfield. The runways were concrete but the rich earth of India was what we walked upon across to the terminal. I knew as soon as I set foot in India that I was somehow home. I have never forgotten those scents. They are ingrained in my memory forever, and at odd times and in odd places I have said to Srini, "it smells like India", and I am again flooded with memories.